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University of Central Missouri
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Athletic Training Student from Japan Snags Pro Baseball Internship

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (May 8, 2015) – After growing up in a country where baseball is a national passion, a University of Central Missouri international student this spring got an inside-look at what it takes to keep professional players in top condition while also gaining experience to better prepare him for his own professional career.

baseball internship

A University of Central Missouri junior Athletic Training major  from Japan, Takao Iwano, poses near a Kansas City Royals sign at their training campus in Surprise, Ariz. It was the site of a recent internship made possible by the Japan Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in cooperation with the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.

Hoping to someday work in the Major Leagues, Takao Iwano, a 24-year-old junior athletic training major from Abiko, Chiba, Japan, was one of only seven individuals selected to participate in an internship program sponsored by the Japan Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in cooperation with the American Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. The experience, in early March, took him to Arizona, where he spent a week with the Kansas City Royals at their training facility in Surprise, and the Seattle Mariners, in Peoria.  He was one of five Japanese interns who are attending school in the United States. Two other  interns work in Japan.

“I got to work alongside Athletic Trainers at the professional level, and observe what they were doing. I asked a lot of questions,” Iwano said, “and they taught me a lot about things like different exercises.”

He said the internship gave him an opportunity to see players that he watched on televised baseball in Japan and America. He was particularly excited about the opportunity to work with the Royals, which won the American League Pennant in 2014, and a trip to the World Series. He got to be in the dugout during games, and was excited to get “fist-bumped” by the Major League players.

More than just a fun experience for a longtime baseball fan, this valuable learning opportunity also entailed long hours and lots of work.  Iwano said he’d be on the job by 5:15 a.m., performing tasks such as setting up the hydrotherapy station, and getting ice and towels ready for the players.  He’d participate in pre-game, pre-practice, and field setups, in addition to working with professional Athletic Trainers to observe pre-game, pre- and post-practice treatments. Sun up to sun down, Iwano interacted frequently with the certified training staff.

“The internship really gave me an opportunity to see what they are doing at the professional level,” Iwano remarked.

Brian Hughes, professor and athletic training program director, applauded Iwano for seeking out the opportunity with JBATS. Although students are required to participate in for-credit athletic training internships which are imbedded in the curriculum throughout each semester of their four-year program at UCM, he said Iwano’s experience was on his own, and for no academic credit. He also paid his own expenses, including air fare and hotel costs.  Hughes insisted, however, the investment and time were well spent for Iwano. It should give him an extra edge when he competes for jobs after his college graduation.

“Our students are sought-after in the workplace, but when you put something like that on a resume – an internship with a professional sports team – employers look at what separates the top from everybody else. It could be that spending 14 days unpaid days in an internship with Major League Baseball’s will catch an employer’s attention. It’s going to pay for itself in the end,” Hughes said.

Hughes noted that throughout the years, UCM students in the Department of Nutrition and Kinesiology, where the Athletic Training program is housed, have benefitted from internships in a variety of professional sports, including the National Football League. One student recently interviewed with the New York Ballet. All such internships take place in addition to curriculum-based internships which enable students to work with university Athletic Trainers and athletic teams. Such internships, Hughes insisted, are consistent with the university’s efforts to provide “learning to a greater degree” through hands-on experiences.

Iwano said this won’t be the last time he applies for a baseball internship. He’s hoping to land another opportunity through PBATS next year.

Talking about why he came to UCM, he said he has enjoyed the educational experience. As he puts it, UCM has proven to be “a nice fit for me.”

Students such as Iwano who are entering internships have the benefit of experience gained through knowledgeable and experienced UCM Athletic Training faculty, on- and off-campus Athletic Trainers, and state-of-the-art labs and equipment. This contributes to the program’s accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.